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bers of this sect denied the authority of the magistrates, the lawfulness of taking oaths, and many of the cardinal Christian doctrines, and were guilty of gross enormities, such as polygamy, rebellion, theft, murder, etc. Considering, then, the flagitious errors and excesses into which the Anabaptists had fallen, and by which they had acquired such an unsavoury reputation, it is little to be wondered at that the Puritans of Massachusetts should view with horror and alarm the possible recrudescence of such errors, and without making any attempt to discriminate between them should regard Baptists of every description as eminently unsafe and dangerous people.
Whatever may be said in reprobation of the course they pursued, there is no doubt that the rulers of Massachusetts were sincerely perplexed as to how they should act in regard to those holding and avowing Baptist convictions. “The truth is," said the General Court in their “ Declaration” in November 1646, "the great trouble
“ we have been put into, and hazard also, by fanatistical and anabaptistical spirits, whose conscience and religion hath been only to set forth themselves and raise contentions in the country, did provoke us to provide for our safety. . But for such as differ from us only in judgment, and live peaceably amongst us, without occasioning
1 Crosby's History of the English Baptists, lxxiii, xxiv, vol. i. p. 196; Palfrey's History, vol. i. p. 487, note, also vol. ii. p. 348 ; Motley's
. Rise of the Dutch Republic, vol. i. pp. 79, 80; Robertson's History of the Reign of Charles the Fifth, bk. v. “The 'superadding of Ana
' baptistry to Sans-culottism'(Carlyle's Cromwell, vol. ii. p. 70) alarmed the magistrates of Massachusetts, as it soon after alarmed the Dictator of England ;” Palfrey's History, vol. ii. p. 348, note.
disturbance, etc., such have no cause to complain; for it hath never been as yet put in execution against any of them, although such are known to live amongst us.” 1 They were glad of any pretext to restrain them from enforcing the law against Anabaptists. It is said that two of the presidents of Harvard College were Anabaptists.
Persecution of the Quakers.-The sufferings of the Baptists were mildness itself compared with the severities inflicted on the people called Quakers. This is the darkest and most shameful blot upon the theocracy of New England. Quakerism made its appearance in Boston in 1656, being thither imported by two unprotected women, Mary Fisher and Ann Austin, who had come from the Barbadoes. They were charged with holding " very
. dangerous, heretical, and blasphemous opinions”; their baggage was searched, and all their books and tracts confiscated, and after being kept in prison for five weeks they were shipped back to the Barbadoes. Two days after, another contingent of the same persuasion, eight in number, were in like manner imprisoned and then sent back to England. Nothing daunted by this treatment, some of them returned ; nor could all the severities which the authorities could devise for their suppression-scourging, imprisonment, and threatenings—avail to quench their ardour or abate their “testimony." The punishment decreed against all who came within the jurisdiction of the Court was the loss of one ear on the first conviction ; on the second, the cropping of the other ear; after the
1 Palfrey's History, vol. ii. p. 348, note ; Bancroft's History, vol. i. p. 324, revised edition, p. 350.
third conviction, the tongue was to be bored with a hot iron, and then they were to be imprisoned, with hard labour, till they could be got rid of “ at their own charge. It was made criminal for any one to harbour any of the accursed sect." Any captain of a vessel carrying a Quaker into port was to be fined £100, and in default of payment, to be imprisoned till the fine was paid. Three Quaker women were stripped to the waist and flogged through eleven towns, and this in the winter season, amid frost and snow. Persecution had the effect it has had so often on its hapless victims, and upon those who have witnessed their sufferings. It begot a strange and weird eagerness for the crown of martyrdom. The sufferers were most numerous where they were most feared. Their fortitude, their patience under suffering, their unwavering conviction in the righteousness of their cause, won for them friends and sympathisers among all classes of the community. The authorities did their utmost to restrain every manifestation of sympathy, even to the extent of sentencing any person convicted of being present at a Quaker meeting to a fine of 10s., and for taking part in any such meeting a fine of £5.
Four Quakers were hanged—William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson in 1659, Mary Dyer in 1660, and William Leddra in 1661. Leddra's was the last execution in Boston for the cause of religious opinion. “What do you gain,” cried Wenlock Christison, “by taking Quakers' lives ? For the last man that you put
? to death, here are five come in his room.
If ye have power to take my life, God can raise up ten of His servants in my stead."
At last the pent up indignation of the people, inspired by these atrocities, broke out in such violence that the magistrates began to quail before it, and were forced to stay their hands, and to repeal the iniquitous laws. It is due to the other united colonies to say that though they were guilty of harsh and repressive measures, they did not go the length of enacting capital laws against the Quakers; it was only by the Puritans of Massachusetts that they were hanged. The persecution of the Quakers continued for five years, and during that time it was a great grievance to Massachusetts that no assistance was given by the towns of Narragansett Bay in extirpating the heretics who “propagate the kingdome of Sathan."
Rhode Island would have no part in Persecution. -It is to the everlasting honour of Rhode Island that, when appealed to by the commissioners of the united colonies, they replied in these terms: “As concerning these Quakers (so called) which are now among us, we have no law among us whereby to punish any for only declaring by words, etc., their minds and understanding concerning the things and ways of God as to salvation and an eternal condition.” They did not deny that the doctrines of the Quakers tended“ to very absolute cutting down and overturning relations and civil government among men”; nevertheless, they believed that the most effectual way of defeating their designs was to oppose them with no weapons other than arguments and moral dissuasives. To meet them with weapons of another kind would be to defeat their own objeet,
inasmuch as they delight "to be persecuted by civil powers; and when they are so, they are like to gain more adherence by the conceit of their patient sufferings than by consent to their pernicious sayings.” It is easy for us to see that the Rhode Islanders took the only right and reasonable ground; but, unfortunately for their very sound and enlightened theory, it did not receive practical illustration in the behaviour of the persecuted sect which they thus welcomed to their asylum. Rhode Island became a very cave of Adullam for Quaker refugees. They kept the whole colony in a state of constant embroilment and dispeace. There is no doubt that
. Roger Williams gave expression to the feeling of grievance on his own part and on the part of his fellow-colonists when he said: "We suffer for their sake, and are accounted their abettors." Wide as was his toleration and boundless his charity, he could not hold himself back from contending against their pernicious errors, their unscriptural opinions ;1 and his controversy with Fox, contained in a book of more than 300 printed pages, entitled, George Fox Digged out of his Burrowes, is perhaps the only controversy of his life into which he threw a spice of acrimony and bitterness, though he himself playfully describes it as “sharp Scripture language.”
From the description of them just given, it will be seen that the Quakers of three hundred years ago
1 His irrepressible zeal is shown in the fact that when he was seventy-three years old he rowed himself in a boat the whole length of Narragansett Bay to engage in a theological tournament against three Quaker champions.